Okay, so it’s not as if we had to consult Ray Mears in putting together this guide on how to survive Toy Fair.
To him, the complaints of worn out show-goers would sound like the wails of a privileged teen that didn’t get an iPad for Christmas. But still, show season is an affair that should not to be taken lightly.
What we did do was ask a handful of Toy Fair regulars for their survival tips. The best policy, as one clever person put it, is to remember the five Ps: “Proper Preparation and Planning prevents a Pitifully Poor Performance”.
Ultimately Olympia is a great place to do business, make new connections and discover new toys, but the potential pitfalls are many. Basically, if you don’t get your shit together in advance, you’re going to come unstuck.
Sore feet, missed appointments, poor nutrition, leaving your lucky socks at home, spending evenings alone and the besmirching of your carefully built reputation are just some of the possible perils of a three-day trade show, but almost all of them can be eliminated with a bit of the aforementioned proper preparation.
Essentials are business cards (you’re beyond help if you forget these), a deodorant which works, paracetamol, bottled water, chewing gum and snacks. Use the provided map too – it's what it’s there for.
DRESS TO IMPRESS
When it comes to attire, it’s all about options. At set-up time when the halls are empty, the air is adequately described as ‘very cold’, but later when everyone’s marching the halls the temperature rises, so pack your best deodorant and give yourself options in terms of layers.
Speaking of clothes, apparently some people think ties, slacks and shiny shoes are important so if you’re intent on winning business then go for this look. Leave the jeans and unbuttoned shirt sans tie look to the buyers.
Be crease-free and presentable. This means you’ll either need to be an expert suitcase packer or hope your hotel room includes a Corby press and one of those tiny irons. Dudes, make sure to do your whole shirt, not just the cuffs and collar. Girls, um, I’ve heard ‘flats’ make a good alternative to high heels? Stands to reason.
FOOD AND DRINK
Do avoid pre-packed sandwiches, when you can, in favour of those nifty little salads in a box. Nutritious snacks like fruit will counteract the fried breakfasts (if they’re your thing).
A big part of any trade show is the socialising, or ‘networking’ and the inevitable consumption of alcohol that goes with it. Do eat before drinking and if you don’t fancy a hangover then try to drink sensibly...
Okay, that’s probably not going to happen, so a well- known rule of thumb is to match each alcoholic drink with an equal volumetric amount of water, or at least consume as much H2O as you can manage once you get in.
Definitely don’t go to a party arranged by your employer and drink lots, get carried away networking, start acting cocky – and then go back to the Hilton leaving your bag at the bar with your laptop, camera and video camera inside it.
Definitely don’t do that. (Mercifully and somewhat pathetically my expensive stuff was handed back to me by none other than my managing director the very next morning. Ian Goodall from Aardvark Swift, I owe you a drink). Oh and the same goes for leaving expensive audio visual equipment on exhibitor stands (Darrell of Bandai, I owe you one too).
Anyway, without further- ado, here’s some top tips from more experienced Toy Fair goers.
SARAH WINTER, GREEN BOARD GAMES
Wear flat shoes and have a big breakfast as you won’t eat again until late. Always have Red Bull on the stand.
On show etiquette...
Have fun, don’t take yourself too seriously, but you need to know what you’re talking about! Dress ‘business smart’ even if buyers are in jeans, and have a great looking stand.
On ‘networking’ and drinking...
Very important, this leads onto the big breakfast and Red Bull! You see both exhibitors and buyers out and it’s always a great conversation starter the next day.
On making a successful exhibition...
Make sure your toys are obvious on the stand and make them noisy. Get a good stand builder. Good luck!
If you find a good hotel or restaurants then stick with them as they are hard to find, especially hotels. Ask other people where they stay and eat as they may have good ideas.
AMY ALLBON, BANDAI
How to make a good impression...
Low cut tops, short skirts, killer heels and alcohol. Works every time! No, in all seriousness, make sure there is always someone at the front of the stand – preferably more than one – and ensure your receptionists know exactly who to expect. Nothing will disappoint a buyer more than not being recognised, or not being expected.
How to dress...
Think I covered this above, but I guess most would say smart, professional with sensible shoes, although those who know the Bandai team know we don’t do sensible!
Being hung-over on stand, albeit a rite of passage, can become a hindrance – especially when a previously unknown buyer turns out to bea‘9outof10’.Imustsay though, Toy Fair is such a key networking event and is such a great way to kick start a new season and year with all our retailers.
RYAN BLANE HASBRO
Always be prepared for the unexpected. You never know who you will meet or who you may need to avoid.
How to get your new lines noticed...
Great entertainment and a strong track record of success is always a sure fire way to get your products noticed. If that fails there is always a somebody willing to walk the halls in a character suit.
Winning people over...
A free lunch or freebies always seems to attract attention, both good and bad.
BHAV PATEL, TOY GALAXY
Toy fairs are generally tiring events. You walk around, for what may seem like hundreds of miles, carrying around all the catalogues the toy industry can produce only to have to do it again the following day.
My lesson learnt (the hard way) was to ensure you have good footwear. The nicest shoes are not always the most comfortable. So to avoid walking around like you have pebbles in your shoes, wear something comfortable.
How to make the most of it..
It’s really important to plan your time at Toy Fair well. Try to leave a good 15 minutes between appointments. I’ve learnt to schedule my appointments according to the floor plan.
It’s really important to prioritise the companies that are important to your business.
Toy Fair is the best place for you to pick up, play with and test the products (as your customers will do in your stores).
Finding the best products...
Always leave time to browse around. You’ll be amazed at what new lines or ranges you can discover when you’re unintentionally wondering around.
DAVID MIDDLETON, MIDCO TOYS/DNA TOYS
How to get there...
I always drive down to Stanmore, park the car there and then get the tube into central London.
Places to eat...
Theres a good cheap pub around the corner... bacon cob from the greasy spoon or if the suppliers are paying, The Ritz.
On places to stay...
Always book a branded hotel otherwise you might end up staying in the haunted mansion.
Two years ago I booked a hotel on the road which runs down the side of the Hilton.
I ended up being wide awake all night as the place looked like something out of tales from the crypt. There was a freaky picture of two dogs on the wall and they were looking at me all night.
Networking and drinking...
I always hang around in the Hilton because this is where the posh people stay.
Then all you have to do is find these people with money and get them to buy your drinks all night. Then at the end of the night stagger down the road and when a homeless guy is sat there asking for money, don’t give him any. But do give him a bag of pork scratchings. Another lesson learned from Alan Caswell.
Also don’t sleep naked when pissed. You might mistake the toilet door for the actual room door, might you Barry of Esdiveum.
REBECCA CLARK, RE:CREATION
From my years at different exhibitions it is important if not completely essential to expect the unexpected at any point in time and of course be prepared for the unexpected. Remember the 5 P’s – Proper Preparation and Planning prevents a Pitifully Poor Performance!
On winning over visitors...
Who can’t be won over by a smile? Failing that
always ensure your stand has some wonderful refreshments/bribes to offer. Tea and coffee doesn’t cut it these days. Try sweets, ice cream and alcohol.
How to dress...
Or how not to dress. One simple lesson – common sense. On the first day of Toy Fair do not think that it is big or clever to wear six inch heels because they make your legs look thin! Rock the three inchers or even better beautiful flats – trust me you will not regret it! Layers are also a good handy tip – then you can strip off or layer up depending on the climate. It varies from Baltic to Hawaii throughout the day, so my motto is always be prepared.
On the after show party...
Take every opportunity to network, it’s not only great for meeting other members of the trade – but you get free nibbles and drinks too ... really what more could you ask for?
Obviously, my advise from previous exhibitions is that ‘eating is not cheating’. Remembering this will ensure that the Wednesday morning doesn’t hurt too much. But if it does, you should be prepared and remember the Alka Seltzer.
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